The Tea Room Blog

What is the difference between a British scone and an American scone?

Different shapes, different flavors, different textures, scones are two widely different things on either of the Atlantic. England and America may have that ‘special relationship’ but when it comes to scones they are as different as chalk and cheese, and as different as Julia Child and Paula Dean.

The buttery, rich dense American scone is a very dissimilar from the fluffy, delicate and more refined British scone. Both are equally delicious and there is certainly a time and a place for each version.

British scones:
English SconeA quintessential part of Afternoon tea, a proper British scone is round, tall, and has an extremely light texture with a crust like exterior. They are not as sweet or as rich as an American scone, and generally they are a lot smaller.

They require a very light touch, it is vital the mixture is handled as little as possible otherwise they can become tough. Scones frequently include sultanas in the mixture or can be plain – both are just as good.

Found in teashops around the country scones are considered a teatime ritual in England, and a key component of a cream tea. The traditional way to eat one is to split the scone in half, thickly spread each half with clotted cream and top with strawberry jam.

For generations there has been an ongoing debate as to how ‘scone’ should be pronounced – this is dependent on what part of the country you live in, and apparently what class you are from. This little poem will help:

‘I asked the maid in a dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone;
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone’.

No matter how you pronounce it, a good scone is something to look forward to. They taste even better served with copious amounts of clotted cream, consumed on a sunny day while relaxing in the garden.

American scones:
US SconeA staple of most coffee shops, the American scone is frequently large and triangular shaped with a rustic, craggy exterior. Compared to an English scone it is more buttery and contains fruit in the center such as blueberries, raspberries and topped with a sprinkling of sugar.

I have never seen an American scone served with jam and clotted cream, which is probably a good thing as it would not be a combination that would work too well.

Until you have tried a proper British scone it is very hard to imagine the difference between the two baked items. The table below explains all.

If you would like to have a go at making a traditional English Fruit Scone, click here for one of my favorite recipes.

Scone vs. scone:

The American

1 ½ cups, chilled

BUTTER The British

½ cup, chilled

1 tbsp baking powder LEAVENER 2 tbsp baking powder
The more the merrier ADDED FRUIT a handful of sultanas or raisins
Egg wash and coarse sugar TOPPING Light milk and egg wash

Easy Afternoon Tea

If you have never made afternoon tea before it can be a little daunting, what with the platefuls of sandwiches, numerous cakes, biscuits and copious amounts of tea. It is however worth every minute, and if you are attempting afternoon tea for the first time there is a simpler version that your guests will adore.

The great thing about afternoon tea is that it can be anything you want it to be. Traditionally afternoon tea consists of 4 courses: sandwiches, scones, cake and buttery biscuits. This may sound like a lot to eat but we are talking delicate little finger sandwiches and dainty amounts of cake that won’t leave you feeling too full.

History of Afternoon tea.
The practice of having afternoon tea wasn’t established until about 1840, a time when lunch was eaten quite early in the day and dinner was served much later, around eight or 9 o’clock.

DSCF2120The story began when Anna Maria, the seventeenth duchess of Bedford (1783 to 1857) was feeling rather hungry late one afternoon, while on her summer holiday. She asked her maid to bring tea and a tray of bread-and-butter sandwiches to her room. Anna Maria began to enjoy “taking of tea” so much that she started inviting her friends to join her for this new social event, one that soon expanded to include an array of assorted fruit bread and pastries.

Soon after, afternoon tea, as we know it was born, and the trend began, hostesses quickly picked up the practice, and elegant tea parties became fashionable social events rather than just a meal. Ladies did not go to afternoon tea to eat but to meet friends, catch up on gossip, scandal and generally be seen in the right places among the right people, and in passing, to drink tea and sample a small sandwich and a slice of cake.

In a few decades the custom was well established. During the 1880’s, upper class women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats and take tea, which was usually served between four and five o’clock.

Eventually afternoon tea would become so popular tearooms began opening for the general public and society had decided that afternoon tea was a relaxing hour well spent.

I recently created an afternoon tea for mother’s day with just three courses – sandwiches, scones and shortbread. I put all three courses on one large 3-tiered cake stand (available from IKEA), placed in the center of the table and decided to dispense with the customary tea and instead served Pimms.

photo 2 (1)

My guests loved it, and while it wasn’t a real afternoon tea in the traditional four-course sense, it provided a delicious alternative, and something your guests will remember.

It is extremely straightforward to put together. The cakes and biscuits can be made the day before, leaving only the sandwiches and the scones to be prepared on the day. Everything is finished and on the table before anyone arrives making it easy to sit back and enjoy time with you’re guests as opposed having to spend time preparing food in the kitchen.

Easy Afternoon tea for four:

Sandwiches.
Ham and mustard
Chicken and watercress
Cucumber

Make a selection of each using fresh white bread, don’t forget to butter the bread on one side using unsalted butter. Cut the sandwiches into triangles to serve.

Put these on the bottom tier of the cake stand.

Scones.
Freshly baked scones are traditionally served with strawberry jam and clotted cream (please click here for the recipe). Devonshire cream is a good alternative (if you can find it), or heavy cream whipped is another option. Guests should cut the scones in half and add cream then jam, or jam then cream, the choice is theirs.

photo (14)

This recipe is excellent and will give you a batch of around 12 scones.

Place the scones on the second tier of the cake stand.

Shortbread.
The following recipe is very easy to make and is absolutely delicious.

To finish off the display add the shortbread to the top tier. It is a great way to finish the meal.

Pimms.
Follow the link for an easy recipe for Pimms No.1 Cup.

Enjoy your first Afternoon tea!

Once you are comfortable with this, there is always the next time to attempt the all singing, all dancing four-course version, with tea, white gloves, and of course the traditional tea party hats.

Make mine a shandy!

After sharing the history and recipe for England’s second favorite drink – Pimms No. 1 – my thoughts turned to another classic English tipple that goes down well in the summer – shandy.

Shandy recently arrived in America in bottles and cans, but it’s just not the same as the shandy you would find in an English pub.

pub 2

Shandy is very simple to make, basically it is beer mixed with lemonade. Sounds simple doesn’t it, and it is, but what seems to have happened to the shandy in America is that on hearing the word ‘lemonade’ it was thought that it must be the type of lemonade found in America – a cloudy dink made with water, lemons and sugar.

However, lemonade in England is a very different thing indeed and is a clear carbonated soft drink such as sprite and 7-Up.

As you can imagine mixing these two different types of lemonade with beer can give vastly different results, which is why the shandy you find in the US, in my experience, isn’t real shandy, it is a rather odd overly sweet concoction.

And while the English are constantly laughed at for the warm beer (along with having bad teeth and awful food) there is nothing more refreshing as a nice glass of shandy on a summer’s evening.

Shandy

Recipe for shandy:

  1. Take a pint-sized glass, a 16oz glass or 22oz glass will do just fine.
  1. Pour two parts cold Beer and then add one part English style lemonade (Sprite or 7 Up). DO NOT use American style lemonade, this is not a good combination!

If you are looking for a stronger taste I would suggest using either Heineken or Stella Artois, or if it is something lighter you are looking for Budweiser or Labatt Blue work very well.

  1. You are done, find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy!

Of course, you can always ask for a shandy in a bar. I continue to do this and while the server looks at me strangely at first they are normally very happy to bring one over.

*Shandy contains alcohol

Cooking with the Metric System

The metric system, that wonderful system of grams, liters, centimeters and meters, used in every single country apart from 3 – the USA, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Liberia. All three still use Imperial and customary units.

First introduced by the French First Republic in 1799, discussed in English parliament in 1818, officially sanctioned in the United States since 1866, and formally introduced in the United Kingdom in 1965, America remains the only industrialized country that has not adopted the metric system as its official system of measurement.

Of course we wouldn’t have to worry about this if we weren’t trying to make English recipes in the USA, but trust me, it is pretty easy to overcome.

The metric system is easy to learn and simple to use. The system uses –

  • Grams for weight
  • Celsius (°C) for heat
  • Liters for volume
  • Centimeters and meters for length

Continue reading Cooking with the Metric System

Anyone for Pimm’s?

Okay, so this is a blog about baking, but Pimm’s No. 1 is as English as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, scones with jam and cream or a classic Victoria sponge, so I thought it was certainly worth talking about. And with summer coming I couldn’t resist sharing some history and the recipe for this perfect summer drink.

Pimm’s No1 Cup is so popular in England it is often thought of as the nations second favorite drink with the favorite being tea. It is the official drink of Wimbledon, the Chelsea flower show, a favorite at many village cricket events and something many people enjoy while soaking up the sun in their back garden (on the occasional days when its not raining that is).

Pimms-Cup

What is Pimm’s?
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is an alcoholic drink. It has a dark-tea color, with a red tint and a subtle taste of spice and citrus fruit. It is often served with English style lemonade (think Sprite or 7 up) along with chopped fresh ingredients including apples, cucumber, oranges, lemons, strawberry and sprigs of mint. Pimm’s can also be mixed with Champagne, called a “Pimm’s Royal Cup”.

PimmsHistory of Pimm’s
Pimm’s originated at an Oyster Bar in the City of London in 1840. James Pimm owned the bar, and he created the Pimm’s ‘house cup’, serving it in a small tankard known as a “no. 1 Cup”, hence the name. It was originally a gin based drink and contained a mixture of liqueurs and fruit extracts.

James Pimm began to build a chain of bars and restaurants across the city of London, and they soon became a favorite place for businessmen to relax at the end of a long day.

By 1851 Pimm’s began producing the drink on a large scale and sold it to other bars in the city. In 1865 the company was sold to Frederick Sawyer, and sold again in 1880 to the future Lord Mayor of London Horation Davies. Sales of the drink expanded rapidly and it became available throughout the British Empire, gaining a reputation for ‘all things British’.

It first became available at Wimbledon in 1971, and every year over 80,000 pints (Pimm’s and lemonade) are sold to spectators at the event.

Pimm’s No. 1 is extremely quick and easy to prepare, and the recipe below shows you how to make the perfect Pimm’s No 1 Cup in three very easy steps –

Recipe for traditional Pimm’s No. 1:

1. Take a jug (if you want to make several glasses) or a glass and add as much ice as you like.

2. Pour one part Pimm’s No. 1 with three parts English style lemonade (Sprite or 7 Up) over ice

3. Add a selection of mint leaves, thin cucumber slices, orange slices and strawberries (depending on what you prefer) and serve in a long tall glass.

Then sit back, relax and enjoy the taste of summer!

*Pimm’s contains alcohol

What are fairy cakes?

Who couldn’t love fairy cakes? These cute little sponge cakes are a smaller version of a cupcake – they are in essence the dainty version of their American cupcake cousins.

The cakes are very popular in England and are traditionally made using a lighter sponge (think the texture and ingredients’ of pound cake) as opposed to the thicker batter used in cupcakes. They are half the size with a lot less decoration, just as cute, and it is safe to say, it is the sponge that is the star, not the ‘frosting’.

Fairy cakes are perfect for parties, and are easy to make. Just keep the sponge nice and light, and the decoration simple – they never fail to make people smile.

Click here for the full recipe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What are rock cakes?

The humble rock cake, it doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing in the world to eat, but trust me, they are a very nice teatime treat, and a popular component of the traditional high tea.

Rock cakes originated from Great Britain, where they are still found on the table at teatime in many homes in England. Rock Cakes are also known as Rock Buns, depending on where in the UK you live. The Ministry of Food promoted them during World War Two, due to the fact they required fewer eggs and less sugar than many cakes, which made them very easy to make during the period of rationing.

These light and crumbly teatime favorites are very easy to make and are best enjoyed warm from the oven. I can certainly recommend them, and they are fun for children to make too.

Click here for the full recipe

Rock cakes

English food and its unappetizing names

GingernutsSo after thinking about ginger nuts for over a week (incase there is any confusion, the following image represents my line of thought) I started contemplating the many other English foods that have unappetizing names.

Lets face it, English food doesn’t have the best reputation around the world, which I am sure is not helped by the names we have chosen to give to some of our best known dishes, all of which I may add are delightful to eat.

To quote English food writer Simon Majumdar – “we have done ourselves no favors at all when it comes to giving our food names that might make anyone actually want to eat them”.

So lets take a look at a few prime examples:

Spotted dick – The word ‘dick’ was widely used as a term for pudding in the 19th century. It is a very popular pudding in England and goes down very well with a dollop of custard.

Spotted-Dick-1

Continue reading English food and its unappetizing names

Recipe – Ginger nuts

The humble ginger nut – one England’s favorite biscuits’, and the biscuit with probably the least attractive and appetizing name.

The ginger nut is a staple of most homes in England and was listed as the tenth most popular biscuit in the UK to “dunk” in tea.

It is a close relative of the ginger biscuit and ginger snap, and is typically flavored with powdered ginger and a variety of other spices, including cinnamon and molasses. The many varieties can be found across the world. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand they are called ginger nuts. In Scandinavia ginger nuts are also called ginger bread or “brunkage” in Danish, which literally mean “brown biscuits”. While in the United States, they can be compared to ginger snaps.

Each recipe (there are many) and each country offers the biscuit with varying amounts of ginger and other spices, which gives them an individual international flavor.

The recipe below is typically English; it contains a nice amount of ginger, golden syrup and offers a wonderful crunchiness and snap as you break one in half.

Click here for the Full Recipe

Gingernuts